The Valley Line: Chorus welcomes scholarship applications

The Valley Line: Chorus welcomes scholarship applications
Some of the singers from Verdugo Hills Women’s Chorus gather during a recent meeting. Front row, from left, Joyce Lauterbach, La Cañada resident Gail Musker, Jean Van Vlear and Kathy Kubota. Second row, Judi McClure, Ginger Menke, Pat Lee, Mary Hendricks, Dee Boerstler and Eva Schilk Schilk. (Courtesy of the Verdugo Hills Women's Chorus)

Our foothill community is being filled with the beautiful voices of the Verdugo Hills Women's Chorus (VHWC), a group of women who love to sing and entertain. The chorus is under the direction of former longtime La Cañadan Sharon Schlarb, who now lives in Pasadena. The VHWC is part of the California Women's Chorus, Inc., a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting choral singing among women.

Under its corporate charter, the philanthropic purpose of the organization is to raise funds for awards for students of vocal music, which are presented at the annual Convention Scholarship Concert.


To fulfill the philanthropic purpose of the state organization, VHWC donates to the CWC scholarship fund. Monetary awards are given to outstanding young vocal students to help further their education. To date, many thousands of dollars have been awarded for this purpose.

Sharon Schlarb conducts the Verdugo Hills Women’s Chorus.
Sharon Schlarb conducts the Verdugo Hills Women’s Chorus. (Courtesy of the Verdugo Hills Women's Chorus)

Auditions for three $2,000 scholarships will be held by VHWC on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the First Baptist Church of La Crescenta, 4441 La Crescenta Ave. Suzy Duff, VHWC president, encourages local students, 18 to 24 years of age, to visit and "review the application and rules and regulations and submit their application now." A check for $40 payable to CWC must accompany the application and students must provide their own accompanists. Time is running out and only 25 applicants will be accepted to audition, so if you know a student in that age range who is studying vocal music and could use a scholarship, encourage them to apply.

Applications must be received by Jeanne Long, scholarship chair, or Marianne Jennings by Jan. 30. Further information is available on the website.

CWC is an outgrowth of Mother Singers, a statewide organization that began in the early 1930s. Mother Singers was comprised of women who had a love of music and enjoyed singing. In 1932, the statewide group became the PTA Mother Singers and an individual chorus was organized in Bakersfield. In the early 1960s, choruses from Bakersfield, Santa Barbara and Riverside joined together to present an annual concert of women's choruses from the entire state of California. In May 1970, the First Annual Convention and Concert was held with 178 singers from 11 groups joining together in song. The PTA Mother Singers groups were later incorporated in 1973 under the name California Women's Chorus, Inc. CWC now boasts of having 300 members with choruses from San Diego in the south to Penn Valley in the north.

Verdugo Hills Women's Chorus, originally PTA Mother Singers, was directed by Betty McGaughy until her retirement at the end of the 1998-99 season. In 1999, VHWC was very fortunate to have Sharon Schlarb take over the reins as choral director. She and Diana Tyson, accompanist, are described as the "duo that can't be beat." Schlarb continues to present the singers, now numbering 35, with challenging, fun and enjoyable songs for their programs.

According to member Arlene Massimino, the Verdugo Hills Women's Chorus is the "friendliest group in town." The chorus performs for many local venues including sites in La Cañada, Glendale, Montrose and Pasadena. Rehearsals are held in La Crescenta on Monday mornings, from September to June, a great way for members to start their weeks.

Members come from different backgrounds and occupations but they have one thing in common — their love of music and a desire to sing, especially for those who are unable to leave their homes and attend a concert. A real plus is the camaraderie among the singers.

VHWC continues to maintain its commitment to furthering choral singing among women and invites those who like to sing to join them at a rehearsal. Contact Schlarb for further information.

The VHWC and Burbank Singers are gearing up for the 48th annual California Women's Chorus, Inc. convention and concert April 20. The 10 individual choruses comprising CWC will begin rehearsals soon and join together to sing at the public concert in the spring.

Lauren Buckley-Schaer, DMA, has been selected to conduct CWC's combined chorus at the "California Dreamin'" concert. She hails from New Orleans and has had a varied career conducting choirs of all ages, sizes and abilities. While at Princeton University, she was assistant conductor of the glee club and music director of the Katzenjammers, an a cappella group specializing in classical repertoire and vocal jazz. She was the first student to pursue and receive a certificate in conducting at Princeton.

Naomi Sumitani will accompany CWC's combined choruses at the Spring Scholarship concert. She is a native of Palos Verdes and began her musical studies through the Yamaha Music Education System where she studied performance, composition and improvisation. During her career she has garnered many local awards along with participating in international competitions. Sumitani attended Thornton School of Music at USC and earned her bachelor and master's degrees in piano performance and her doctorate in keyboard collaborative arts.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.